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Center of the Sun: Brandon Knight’s role with the 2018-19 Phoenix Suns

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Barring an unlikely trade, Knight will return to the court in a Suns uniform this season.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

We Suns fans have talked and talked and talked about the swiftly approaching NBA Draft. We’ve talked about it so much that, even with it only 3 days away and the Suns armed with their first ever #1 pick, I thought we could take a break from that and talk about something other than the Draft, possible trades and/or free agency in this edition of the CotS.

Brandon Knight.

After missing the entire 2017-18 season with a torn ACL, Knight will be healthy and ready to play for the Suns when training camp roll around in September. Knight has had numerous issues with injuries since joining the Suns at the 2014-15 All-Star break. Before being traded to the Suns by Milwaukee, he was in the All-Star conversation in the East and having his best season as a pro (17.8 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.3 rpg and 40.9% three point shooting). The transition from the Bucks to the Suns - as well as moving from point guard to shooting guard - did not go smoothly and ended with Knight missing several games with a sprained ankle before the season ended.

The following season started off fairly well although Knights’ fit with then backcourt partner Eric Bledsoe never seemed an easy one. Knight also had reoccurring groin injuries that resulted in that season being cut short by a sports hernia. That was probably his second best season as he averaged 19.6 points, 5.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds over 52 games.

This highlight video of his triple-double against the Lakers on Nov. 16, 2015 is a great example of what he’s capable of on any given night.

But, as Suns fans are all aware of, in 2016-17 Knight was moved to a bench role after the emergence of Devin Booker. He never seemed to adapt and had his worst season as a pro before eventually getting shut down (along with Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler) following the All-Star break. I’ll spare you the rehashing of the somewhat controversial circumstances of his shut down.

Then came the news that in July of 2017 that Knight had suffered a torn ACL during a Pro/Am game in Miami and would miss the entire 2017-18 season. By this time, many fans were already disillusioned with Knight, calling the trade that brought him to Phoenix a huge mistake and frequently posting comments on BSotS that he should be traded or even waived. Well, waiving him and just eating the remaining three years and $43.9 million of his contract was never reasonable and the ACL tear made him virtually untradable.

So Brandon Knight missed this past season while he was recuperating and rehabbing as the Suns struggled to their 2nd worst season finish in franchise history. With such a horrendous season unfolding before our eyes, he was almost forgotten by the fans.

But Knight was still around. A few months ago, Knight did an interview in which he actually called his injury something of a blessing in disguise, saying it allowed him time to grow “in every other aspect” as a person and that he was willing to accept whatever role he’s given - starter, reserve or mentor. “I just know I’m going to come in and work my tail off and lift guys up, and make guys around me better and just try to take Phoenix where it needs to be - that’s my biggest goal. The fans and the city, they deserve that.”

And that brings us to where we are now.

The Suns are in dire need of a starting caliber point guard for the upcoming season. Can Knight be that guy? Can he at least be a positive contributor this season? Will the Suns’ new head coach, Igor Kokoskov, be able to bring out the best in him?

Those are the questions I put to the Fantable this week.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. What is your opinion on Brandon Knight and do you think that he could actually be a positive contributor?

2. Do you think that it is possible that Knight might actually wind up as the Suns’ starting point guard this season?

3. Igor Kokoskov will be the most experienced head coach that the Suns have had since Knight arrived in Phoenix. Do you think that this will have any impact on Knight’s play?

GuarGuar: 1. Historically, I have always been very negative towards Brandon Knight and for solid reasoning. After Booker became the lead star, Knight’s play was terrible and he was a major negative player. He took ill advised shots, wouldn’t pass, played horrible defense, and turned the ball over at an extreme rate. He even refused to play in a game around February of last year. I’ve tried to block his play for that year and a half out of my head, but it was really ugly. Nothing like the player he was in Milwaukee or first year with Phoenix. That being said, I think there is a CHANCE he can become a positive contributor next season.

Since the injury, Knight has said how his mindset has changed and it’s shown as he’s grown close with a lot of the guys. Devin Booker was staying at Knight’s house all last week in Miami and working out with him. Ulis, Reed, and Sauce stayed with Knight last month working out in Miami too. For the first time in maybe 3 years, I actually feel like Brandon Knight wants to be here and contribute. And that in itself is something big. I think the biggest problem with Knight was he never accepted his bench role once Booker took over. I think Brandon has more than accepted that role now and there’s certainly a chance things turn around for him. Sleeper comeback player of the year in my opinion.

2. I think there is a reality in which Knight is our starting point guard next season. I don’t want that to be what happens at all though. If we don’t draft Doncic, we need to trade for a starting PG this summer. To be honest Knight has always come across as more of a shooting guard to me. He’s not a pass first guy and looks for his shot more often than not. I’m very skeptical we could be successful with a Knight/Booker starting backcourt. I don’t think they complement each other well on either side of the basketball court. Hopefully McDonough steers in a different direction.

3. Igor can’t possibly be worse for Knight than Hornacek and Watson were. I’ll start out saying that. Obviously, there is a lot of unknown surrounding Igor, but the general consensus is he’s very smart and good at player development. I’m sure the coaching staff recognizes if Knight can be a positive contributor, that’s a big key to winning a lot more games than last season. I expect Knight’s role to be very clear and Igor will put him in situations where he can thrive. If Knight doesn’t do better this coming season, then all hope is lost with him pretty much.

Sun-Arc: 1. As I’ve stated before, I think Knight can certainly be a positive contributor. He was in Milwaukee. And when he started alongside Bledsoe, both players were averaging 20/5/5 for a couple of months. He’s athletic with a really high motor. He might just need to be pointed in the right direction. He’s never had a good coach in PHX. Horny didn’t have control of the team, Watson was clueless, and Triano didn’t even get to be his head coach. Kidd got a lot out of Knight, and I think its possible that Koko could too.

I’d also like to add that he seems to have had a real attitude change during this injured season. The quotes I’ve read from interviews, and taking into consideration his attitude during the amazing amount of time he’s spent with the team (from the bench) in the second half of the season, I’m really curious to see what happens.

Knight always played too fast in PHX, tried to do too much. I blame that on both him and the coaches. Maybe the time off he’s taken has taught him a lot. He’s had a year (really 1.5) to watch the other players and know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe that translates into better on court BBIQ. We’ll see.

2. Frankly, I hope Knight is not the starting PG. But it could happen by default. Could be the best thing to happen to both the team and Knight if he plays well. Can you imagine if, by the end of next season, we are all praying he’ll stay with the Suns on an extension? I know - its hard to imagine that after seeing what we’ve seen. But who knows?

3. It remains to be seen if Igor can allow Knight to look like a useful, productive, and fun (or at least not frustrating) player to watch. I have no idea whether its possible or not. Nor do I know whether any on-court success should be attributed to Igor or Brandon or both. Not sure we’ll ever know. Unless Knight looks no different on the floor and we all watch, once again, as his minutes dwindle away to nothing- and we are grateful for the lack of his presence.

But I, for one, hope for a happy ending to Knight’s time here. And I hope, given all that we gave up for and to him, becomes a small price to pay for his services.

SDKyle: 1. Brandon Knight is a talented scorer who is not a very good point guard. I believe he can be a positive contributor as far as his ability to be a constant threat to put the ball in the bucket, which the Suns spent last season having none of following Bledsoe’s departure. But even as a guy who kept defending him long after I probably should have stopped, I readily admit that he can be a very frustrating player.

2. At this point I think Knight is probably the favorite to end up as our starting PG at least to begin the season. I think the Suns are going to select Deandre Ayton first in the draft, and I don’t think a PG drafted at #16 overall is likely to get an immediate starting nod over Knight given that McD almost surely wants to rehab Knight to set up a trade this season or just after.

I’m aware of the trade speculation and would love to see it happen, but getting a deal done is probably less likely than one not getting done.

3. I don’t see how it couldn’t. Earl Watson was a disaster for Knight possibly more than any other Sun, providing so little structure that Knight actually seemed encouraged to take whatever shot he wanted. I’m not saying that Knight’s problems were all Watson’s fault, but I certainly believe Watson did him no favors as a player.

Kokoskov has a reputation as a “guard whisperer” with a keen basketball mind. He also displays a personality that is the night and day inverse of Watson’s, preaching victory instead of personal development and a “basketball second” approach. I hope this reputation is warranted... I’d love to see the effects.

SouthernSun: 1. I... I like Brandon Knight. I think he is an extremely talented player who has been in a pretty rough situation for a few years. He had just had an all star caliber season for the Bucks the previous season and was on his way to having a similar one when the Suns traded for him at the deadline several years ago. He was paired with Eric Bledsoe, and under the coaching of Jeff Hornacek, for the first couple months of that season until Bledsoe went down with injury, Knight and Bledsoe were averaging together something like 40ppg 10apg and 10rpg. Which is nothing to sneeze at for a starting backcourt. After Bledsoe’s injury, Knight went on to put up 19ppg 5apg and 4rpg on decent percentages. He had a rookie Booker and occasionally some help from TJ Warren. That’s pretty much it. He did a very admirable job that season, despite playing through injuries of his own. His best role, however, was as a secondary ball handler and playmaker next to Eric Bledsoe. He was de facto shooting guard in that lineup, and did really well. When he was coming off the bench in the 16/17 season, he had literally nobody else capable of playing basketball with him. It was him, a 93 year old Leandro Barbosa, Len, and Bender. And defenses focused on pretty much him and him alone. Not a recipe for success. I think that as a combo guard off the bench, playing with Warren and a 3rd year Bender, and maybe another decent summer acquisition, Knight could be a positive contributor next season.

2. I think it’s possible he might be the starting point guard this coming season... but I really don’t want him to be. Because that would mean McDonough lied about being aggressive in trades and free agency. And a guard rotation of Booker/Knight/Ulis is not getting you anywhere. Ulis should see as little of the floor as possible. He’s awful. Basically if you could always have on the floor Kemba and Booker, or Booker and Knight, or Kemba and Knight, that’s a much much much better rotation than anything with Ulis in it. Ulis’ job should basically be playing the James Jones role of “best friend of the best player who isn’t actually doing basketball things”. Booker probably realizes that, even if Ulis doesn’t yet. Knight has significantly more talent than Ulis, and the Suns are paying him a lot of money, so they should be putting him in a position to succeed. Starting point guard probably isn’t that role. However, backup spark plug shooting guard, with other players around him who can spell basketball that don’t allow the defense to key in on him specifically, just might be.

3. I won’t pretend I know a bunch about Igor Kokoskov. I don’t. I can barely pronounce it. What I do know is apparently Igor is good at designing an offense with a lot of ball movement, and is adept at working with guards. I’d be very curious to see what he could come up with if given a trio of Booker, Kemba, and Knight. That’s a lot of backcourt talent to work with, if he can get them all on the same page.

Alex Sylvester: 1. I have a hunch Knight is going to have a bounce back year. To what capacity? I’m unsure. But even if this is the hunch I’m getting, it would benefit the Suns to have Knight come off the bench and earn more playing time.

Acquiring some type of vet PG would be a good move to give Knight time to reestablish his worth to the Suns. He has the talent to be a good contributor but there’s no reason to bank on him having a bounce back year.

2. Its most certainly possible, but I sure hope the front office isn’t operating under the belief that Knight will be the penciled in starting point guard for next season. I do appreciate that Book is in Miami at Knight’s house right now bonding, but ideally Brandon is getting 15-20 MPG off the bench next season as a spark plug scorer.

3. I think Igor will help. To what extent, I’m not sure. If Knight can play under control and try to balance his game a bit as opposed to looking to score 24/7, I think he could be a valuable bench piece next season!

Many thanks again to our Fantable - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!


2017-18 Season Highlights

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Phoenix Suns highlights Dec 16 2017

Isaiah Canaan 15 Points/7 Assists Suns Debut Full Highlights (12/16/2017)

Alex Len 12 pts 19 rebs 6 asts vs Wolves 17/18 season

Dragan Bender 17 pts 5 threes vs Wolves 17/18 season


Quotes of the Week

“When I went through (the injury) I was kind of like, why? Why, why, why? But, as you can see, I think, and a lot of people will tell you, I think I’ve grown as an individual off the court, which I think will help when it comes to trying to lead guys on the court.” - Brandon Knight

“We’ll get our choice of players and hopefully pick the best one.” - Ryan McDonough on drafting #1


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Trading For Kawhi Leonard Is Exactly What the Phoenix Suns Shouldn’t Do. Greg Esposito/Sports360 AZ

Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns, the NBA’s next frenemies. Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports

Wanted, veteran help: Draft-day trade targets for the Suns to consider. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns’ No. 1 pick will define the organization for years to come. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns: 5 options for pick No. 31 in 2018 NBA Draft. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

2018 NBA Draft: Every Lottery Team’s Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. Bleacher Report


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

In their 50 year history the Suns’ biggest playoff nemesis has been the Los Angeles Lakers. Phoenix has made 29 appearances in the NBA playoffs but on eight of those occasions, including their first (1970) and last shots (2010) at the postseason, the Lakers were the team to end their playoff runs. Next up are the San Antonio Spurs, who have bounced the Suns from the playoffs six times, all since 1996. After that, only the Portland Trailblazers have ousted the Suns more than twice.

The same three teams, the Lakers, Spurs and Trailblazers, have all fallen four times to the Suns. The Suns have also played three playoff series vs the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors (1976, 1989 and 1994) and have won all three of those.


Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

June 21 - 2018 NBA Draft (7 pm ET).

June 24 - Last day for potential restricted free agents to exercise player options.

June 25 - NBA awards show (9 pm ET on TNT).

June 29 - Last day for decisions on player, team and early termination options, unless individual contracts specify otherwise.

June 30 - Last official day of the 2017/18 NBA league year. Last day for teams to make qualifying offers to players eligible for restricted free agency.

July 1 - Official start of the 2018/19 NBA league year. July moratorium begins. NBA free agency officially begins (12:01 am ET) and free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet. Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts.

July 6 - July moratorium ends (12:00 pm ET). Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades. The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

July 6-17 - 2018 NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)

  • July 6 - Suns vs Mavericks @ 6:30 pm AZT on ESPN
  • July 7 - Suns vs Kings @ 4:30 pm AZT on ESPN
  • July 9 - Suns vs Magic @ 6:30 pm AZT on NBA TV
  • Tournament play follows the three game schedule, opponents and game times TBD.

July 13 - Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

July 15 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned first-round picks; those players become free agents on July 16 if not tendered.

August 31 - Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2018/19 salaries.

September 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.

Late September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “Do you think it’s possible for the Suns to get another top 5 pick in the draft?”

29% - Yes.

31% - No.

40% - Maybe but it would probably cost too much.

There were a total of 466 votes cast.


This week’s poll is:

Poll

Do you think that Brandon Knight can be a positive contributor for the Suns this season?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Yes.
    (464 votes)
  • 12%
    No.
    (64 votes)
528 votes total Vote Now